A new report produced for record labels association the BPI highlights the scale of the current podcasting phenomenon and the extent to which this boom is being driven by rising listenership among millennials as well as by music artists and record labels using the medium to engage with millions of fans. 

Pod Only Knows: Whats Next For Music and Podcasts is authored by Stuart Dredge, Editor-in-Chief of knowledge company Music Ally, and was presented at the BPI’s Insight Session on 13th June. 

Featuring a foreword by BPI CEO Geoff Taylor, the report takes a close look at the podcast audience together with the business and distribution dynamics of the medium. It also presents BPI survey findings that reveal music industry attitudes to podcasting, while also including ‘pod perspectives’ from key influencers, and a directory of the most popular podcasts before rounding off with key takeaways for the reader.

Podcasts aren’t new, but they are enjoying a resurgence. From true-crime podcasts like Serial to politics, sports and comedy, podcast listening is booming, and music-streaming services are upping their efforts in this area. The music community’s relationship with podcasts is evolving too, and artists and record labels are embracing the medium. George Ezra and Friends, Table Manners with Jessie Ware, Blossoms Pubcast, Inside the Album, and Ninja Tune Podcast are just a few of the many podcasts that have caught the imagination, while more recent offerings include Digging Deep: The Robert Plant Podcast, and The David Gilmour Podcast.  

Report highlights/findings:

  • Last August Ofcom reported the weekly audience for podcasts had nearly doubled (84%) from 3.2m in 2013 to 5.9m in 2018. This translates to over 1 in 10 (10.1%) of the adult population; 
  • The Ofcom figure rises dramatically to closer to 1 in 5 among 15-24 year old millennials – and close to half (49%) of the UK podcast audience is aged 35 years or below;
  • 20% of listening time among 15-24 year olds goes on podcasts, and 24% on live radio, but over a quarter (26%) is still taken up music streaming;
  • In December 2017 a survey by podcasting company Acast suggested that nearly a quarter (23%) of the UK population had listened to a podcast ‘in the last month’;
  • Data from RAJAR’s Spring 2019 MIDAS survey shows that 14 per cent of the UK adult population is listening to a podcast every week, rising to a fifth among 15 to 34 year olds;
  • A survey of music companies suggests podcasts work best for marketing & brand profiling: 94% of respondents agreed with the view that podcasts help to promote acts compared to 67% who agree they drive revenues. Whilst they are seen as an opportunity, there are some concerns they may also eat into music listening.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said: "The last couple of years have seen the music community’s interest in podcasts truly awaken. Podcasts are seen as a new and more personal way for artists and labels to connect with fans – enabling them to get into the artist’s mind and forge a deeper relationship with the music they love.  It is evident that podcasts particularly resonate with millennials, while the boom is also being driven by a growing number of music artists, including George Ezra, Jessie Ware, Robert Plant and David Gilmour, who are embracing the concept and making it their own in highly imaginative ways.”  

This latest edition in the regular series of BPI Insight Sessions on June 13th explored the dynamics and trends shaping the popularity of podcasts, and what this may mean for music consumption – now and in the future. The event, hosted by Reed Smith and curated for the BPI by Music Ally, was chaired by Music Ally Reports editor and author Eamonn Forde.

Along with the presentation of the report and the survey findings, the Insight Session also saw valued contributions from Columbia Records UK's Alex Eden-Smith (Head of Marketing) and Edd Blower (Senior Digital Marketing Manager) in conversation with the BPI’s Casandra Strauss discussing the success of the George Ezra & Friends podcast; and from Tom Mullen, VP, Marketing Catalog and Podcasting, Atlantic Records. These were followed by a panel discussion featuring Miranda Sawyer – the celebrated writer and broadcaster; Chris Baughen, Managing Editor, Global Player App; Peggy Sutton, Managing Partner, Somethin’ Else; and John Doran, Editor and Co-Founder, The Quietus.

Previous BPI Insight Sessions, a number of which have been held jointly with ERA, have explored In-Car Tech and Entertainment, Blockchain, VR, AI & Music, Generation Z, Smart Speakers, the album in the post-streaming age, and most recently the New Music Influencers.